The Singular Hotel, Santiago
At the eastern end of Merced Boulevard, close to the Parque Forestal and on the edge of the boho Barrio Lastarria. The position is midway between the big universities on the north and south banks of the Mapocho River, and there are plenty of cafes and a lively tempo to the surroundings.
This is one cool customer. Step in off Merced Boulevard and you're in a slinky bar where you could imagine an updated Don Draper installed in one of the black leather wingback chairs nursing a pisco sour, a house specialty. The music is Brazilian, the interior design by Santiago-based Enrique Concha, who has engineered a comforting, cosy, intimate hotel reminiscent of a gent's club circa 1920. Furnishings throughout are retro-reproductions, manufactured to order in Vietnam. Singular by style as well as name, the hotel underwrites its individuality with its own signature-brand coffee, and even beer.
Guest rooms are light and bright, and pleasingly uncluttered. A few of the 62 rooms have balconies but only the higher rooms in the nine-storey hotel offer views worth the name. The specialty in the stylishly appointed subterranean spa is the chromotherapy treatment. Pick a colour – feeling blue, or in the pink? – and your treatment, including the colour of the lighting, is calibrated accordingly. There is also a rooftop bar, already a hit with the after-work crowd.
Heavy-duty curtains guarantee soundless dark even during the day, much appreciated by jet-lagged trans-Pacific travellers. Storage space is generous. Smallest rooms are 25 square metres and only these rooms lack a bath. Bathroom squirts are from the lovely Damana Earth and Sun line.
High. Guest rooms are spacious and tailored with an old-school sense of the upholsterer's art. Those in need of a coffee or tea should head for the bar since the makings are not provided in the room, common practice in South American hotels. Wi-Fi is free and beefy and service is diligent. I've lost the multi-adaptor that allows me to plug in and recharge my laptop, but the concierge sends out a call and one of the chefs lends me his iBook charger. Kudos.
The ground-floor restaurant accelerates the cosy, clubby and comfortable mood established in the bar/reception area next door. It's a tony affair, with well starched linen tablecloths and bow-tied waiters, a chandelier above and chequerboard floor underfoot. The seasonal menu makes the most of local dishes, including some sensational Chilean cheeses, and the wine list features 50 of the country's finest. Breakfasts are cooked to order, no such thing as a buffet here. During the warmer months the courtyard at the front of the hotel serves as a casual dining area.
You're steps away from the hipster cafe/restaurant scene along Jose Victorino Lastarria, which hosts a busy street market on Sundays. Great for one-off souvenirs, and there's music in the air, with occasional virtuoso performances from pan-flute players and guitarists. The Plaza de Armas, heart and soul of the city, is a 10-minute stroll away, even if you press your nose against the clothes boutiques along Merced Boulevard. The Museum of Contemporary Art and Museum of Fine Arts are just a five-minute walk, while the Museum of Visual Arts is out the back of the hotel, close to the Archaeological Museum.
The Santiago hotel scene has thrown up some high quality small hotels that more than hold their own against the international chains, and this characterful, handsome hotel adds spark to the trade. A well-polished refuge in a great location with professional service, fine food and a high quality spa, this could be just the tonic for that pre or post trans-Pacific leap.
HOW TO GET THERE
About a 25-minute taxi ride from Santiago's International Airport.
Rooms at the Singular Hotel start at $305 a night. See thesingular.com and southamericatourism.com.
The writer was a guest of the Singular Santiago and the South America Tourism Office.